House lays out its impeachment probe

The House Judiciary Committee laid out the procedures on Monday of what it's calling its ongoing "impeachment investigation" of President Donald Trump.
Image: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler in Washington on July 24, 2019.
The House is expected to vote this week on procedures governing the Judiciary Committee's impeachment investigation into President Trump, as laid out by the panel's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Alex Moe and Allan Smith

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee laid out specific committee procedures governing hearings moving forward as part of what it's calling an ongoing "impeachment investigation" of President Donald Trump, setting the stage for a vote to define that probe which could come this week.

The release of the resolution comes after the committee's chairman, Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., declared last month that his panel was proceeding with an impeachment investigation despite there being no vote to do so.

The vote, expected Thursday and confirmed to NBC News by a source familiar with the committee's plans, will include language that is expected to follow the procedures the Judiciary Committee used in 1974 during the Nixon impeachment proceedings.

The resolution, should it pass, would make the following four changes to the committee rules governing hearings:

  • It would allow the chairman to designate full committee or subcommittee hearings as part of the impeachment probe.
  • It would allow staff to question witnesses for an additional hour, equally divided between the majority and minority.
  • It would allow for secret grand jury material to be reviewed in closed executive session.
  • It would allow for the president’s counsel to respond to information and testimony presented in committee in writing and give the chairman authority to invite the president’s counsel to review and respond in writing to executive session materials.

These procedures are expected to follow those the Judiciary Committee used in 1974 during the Nixon impeachment proceedings.

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"President Trump went to great lengths to obstruct Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation, including the President’s attempts to remove the Special Counsel and encourage witnesses to lie and to destroy or conceal evidence," Nadler said in a statement accompanying the release. "Anyone else who did this would face federal criminal prosecution."

"No one is above the law," Nadler added. "The unprecedented corruption, coverup, and crimes by the President are under investigation by the Committee as we determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment or other Article 1 remedies. The adoption of these additional procedures is the next step in that process and will help ensure our impeachment hearings are informative to Congress and the public, while providing the President with the ability to respond to evidence presented against him."

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the resolution was just the latest gambit in a wider effort to hamstring the president.

"Sadly, it’s just more of the same from the Democrats," she said in a statement. "They should be focusing on the needs of our country, instead, their obsessive vendetta against this President continues."

The decision to draft a resolution laying out the boundaries of the investigation was first reported by Politico last week and later confirmed by NBC News. A vote on the resolution would be the first formal vote as part of the Judiciary Committee's impeachment investigation.

Democratic committee aides elaborated on the resolution on Monday, calling it the "next step" in the probe, with one saying it "represents a significant step forward."

"This committee is absolutely in an impeachment investigation," one aide said, adding that the panel is "going full steam ahead."

A Democratic leadership aide criticized the release of the resolution, telling NBC News constituents will falsely assume this means the House is impeaching Trump.

"It’s going to be a media circus, and you’ll have all these confused constituents who think impeachment is happening but the emperor has no clothes," the Democratic leadership aide said of the resolution, adding sarcastically, "Let’s set the table in case we have dinner, but we haven’t started making the food."

The release comes just as members return from a six-week recess. During that time, the committee has expanded their probe to include potential violations of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause and hush payments made during the 2016 presidential campaign to two women who said they had had affairs with Trump, relationships he has denied.

Heidi Przybyla contributed.